Cancer that forms in the tissues of the vagina is known as vaginal cancer. The vagina is the muscular tube that connects your uterus to your external genitalia. Cancer occurs most often in women over the age of fifty. There are chances that it can occur even during childhood for women. To effectively treat cancer, a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy is done.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
A type in which cancer forms in the thin, flat cells that line the inside of the vagina. The growth rate is slow, and cancer usually stays near the vagina. It can spread to the lungs, liver, or bones as well. This is the sort of vaginal cancer that is most widespread. It is the most prevalent cancer of the vagina.
It is cancer that begins in the glandular cells. Glandular cells located in the lining of the vagina are responsible for the production of mucus. It is more likely that adenocarcinoma may spread to the lungs and lymph nodes.
It grows in your vagina's pigment-producing cells (melanocytes).
It develops in the cells of the connective tissue or the muscle cells of the walls of the vagina.
Vaginal cancer often does not cause early symptoms and can be found during a routine Pap test (a type of test in which the cervix is examined for any abnormalities in the cells). Otherwise, some of the symptoms include:
- Unusual bleeding or discharge not related to menstruation
- Watery vaginal discharge
- Painful urination
- Frequent urination
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Pain in the pelvic area
- A lump in the vagina
The various causes of vaginal cancer are:
- Age: patients generally older than 60 years have a higher risk of getting cancer.
- Exposure to the drug DES (diethylstilbestrol) before birth: DES is a synthetic form of the hormone estrogen. It was prescribed for pregnant women to prevent miscarriage, premature delivery, and related complications that arise during pregnancy. Women who were exposed to DES before birth have a higher risk of developing vaginal cancer. An uncommon type of cancer called clear cell adenocarcinoma exists in some of these women. There has been a link to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and vaginal cancer.
In order to identify and diagnose pelvic cancer, procedures that analyze the vagina and other organs in the pelvis are used. You will use the following checks and processes:
Physical Exam And History
A comprehensive exam is done to check for general signs of health, including lumps or any abnormalities. The history of the patient's health habits and past illnesses and treatments are also analyzed.
An exam is done of the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and rectum. The doctor inserts his finger (gloved and lubricated) into the vagina and places the other hand on the lower abdomen to feel the size, shape, and position of the uterus and ovaries. A speculum is also inserted into the vagina, and the doctor examines the vagina and cervix for signs of disease. A Pap test or Pap test of the cervix is also done to check for abnormalities. The finger can also be inserted into the rectum to feel for lumps or abnormal areas.
Procedure to extract cells from the cervix and vagina wall. The cells from the cervix and vagina are carefully scraped using a cotton ball, brush, or thin wooden stick. In order to decide whether they are defective, the cells are viewed under a microscope. A Pap examination is sometimes called this method.
This process involves removing cells or tissues from the vagina and cervix for viewing under a microscope for signs of cancer.
A test in which the vagina and cervix are checked for suspicious areas using a colposcope (a lighted magnifying instrument). Tissue samples can be taken with a curette (spoon-shaped instrument) and examined under a microscope for signs of disease.
Through diagnosis, the doctor can determine the extent of cancer and assign a stage. In vaginal cancer, the different stages are:
- Stage I: Cancer is confined to the vaginal wall
- Stage II: Cancer has spread to tissue near the vagina
- Stage III: cancer has spread further into the pelvis
- Stage IVA: Cancer has spread to nearby areas, such as your bladder or rectum
- Stage IVB: Cancer has spread to areas far from the vagina, such as the liver.
For patients with vaginal cancer, there are various types of treatments available. Depending upon the stage of cancer, treatment varies. The various types of treatment include:
The most popular treatment for vaginal cancer is surgery. The following surgical procedures can be used:
Laser Surgery: A surgical technique uses a laser beam (a narrow beam of intense light) as a knife to make tissue cuts without blood or to remove a tumor-like superficial lesion.
Wide Local Split: A surgical procedure that removes cancer and some of the healthy tissue around it.
Vaginectomy: Surgery to remove the whole vagina or part of it.
Total Hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus and cervix. The procedure is called a complete abdominal hysterectomy if the uterus and cervix are separated by a large incision (cut) in the abdomen. If the uterus and cervix are removed through a small incision in the abdomen with a laparoscope, the operation is called a total laparoscopic hysterectomy.
Lymphadenectomy: A surgical procedure in which lymph nodes are removed and examined under a microscope for signs of cancer. This operation is also called the dissection of a lymph node. If the cancer is in the upper part of the vagina, the pelvic lymph nodes may be removed. If the cancer is in the lower part of the vagina, the lymph nodes in the groin can be removed.
Pelvic Exenteration: Surgery to remove the lower part of the colon, rectum, and bladder. In women, it also eliminates the cervix, vagina, ovaries, and surrounding lymph nodes. Artificial openings (stoma) are made for urine and stool to flow out of the body into a collection bag. Even if the doctor removes all cancer that can be seen at the time of surgery, some patients may receive radiation therapy after surgery. Treatment given after surgery to increase the chance for a cure is called adjuvant therapy.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or prevent their growth. Two types of radiation therapy exist.
External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to deliver radiation toward cancer.
The radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, cables, or catheters that are inserted directly into or near cancer is used in internal radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing them or by preventing them from multiplying. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can affect cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the spine, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The manner in which chemotherapy is administered depends on the form and stage at which the cancer is treated.